Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson continues to face a backlash from LGBTQ+ fan groups as he edges closer to joining Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq.
The 33-year-old described himself as an 'ally' in the fight against homophobia ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ issues within sport.
Henderson even had a banner made in his honour when he scored his first goal for England while wearing rainbow laces, but amid recent developments, England's LGBTQ+ fan group 3LionsPride — the creators of that banner – have voiced their disappointment with the midfielder.
Beyond disappointed. A sell out like Becks.
Looks like we’re back to one banner. https://t.co/4S2v5H46j2
— 3LIONSPRIDE 🌈🦁🦁🦁⚽️🏴🏳️🌈 (@3Lionspride) July 19, 2023
The group drew comparisons between Henderson and former England captain David Beckham, who faced the wrath of the community after agreeing a ten-year deal to promote Qatar, another country where homosexuality is illegal.
3LionsPride posted on Twitter: "Beyond disappointed. A sell-out like Becks. Looks like we’re back to one banner."
Liverpool’s LGBT+ fans group released a statement earlier this week, claiming they were 'appalled and concerned' that the 33-year-old was considering an offer to swap Merseyside for Saudi Arabia. The statement read: “We are appalled and concerned that anyone might consider working for a sportswashing operation for a regime where women & LGBT+ people are oppressed and that regularly tops the world death sentence table.
“(Steven) Gerrard’s participation in this sportswashing is particularly galling given his previous support for LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Rogers (who came out as gay in 2013).
“When someone’s made a fortune, should money tempt them to go to work? Maybe they should be asking themselves those questions. We hope that Jordan Henderson proves to be a man of his word and stays true to the values of our club, which so far he has been an absolute embodiment of.”
Meanwhile, Stonewall — Europe's largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation and partner in the Premier League's rainbow laces campaign — had a more measured outlook on Henderson's reported move.
Speaking to FootballTransfers, Robbie de Santos, the organisation's Director of External Affairs, said: "We are grateful to Jordan Henderson for using his platform to stand up for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports and fitness, including by wearing our Rainbow Laces. In the ten years since our campaign started, public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in sport have improved considerably, and this is thanks in no small part to bold allyship from athletes such as Henderson.
“We can’t deny the reality of lives for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia, and we hope that Henderson continues his work to build towards a world where sport is everybody's game."